Interview with Filmmaker Matthew Riutta (MEDIAN)

MEDIAN was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I was motivated by the hatred spewing 24/7 against the queer community and all marginalized people during the last (Trump) administration. I had to put some inspiration, positivity, and love into the world and show one way to fight hate and bigotry and make change.

Also, I was inspired by my work as an activist and protestor for marriage equality on the “No On 8” campaign in 2008. A massive group of anti-queer Mormons were harassing pedestrians (queer and straight) on our sidewalks in Oakland, and I decided to do something about it. Over the course of a month, I gathered about 250 (or more) pro-queer protestors and pushed them out of our neighborhood just by showing up, listening, and standing for love. I based my script on this experience.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Probably four years, as I first wrote and directed three other short films that are within a film quartet, including MEDIAN. We filmed MEDIAN right before the pandemic hit but found in the edit we needed pick ups. So, we also filmed twice during the pandemic. Safely, I might add, following local Covid protocols.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Love wins.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Ensuring our cast and crew were safe as we shot in live traffic. We wore safety vests and had Oakland police with us. Some drivers would honk at us while filming, which was great for ambient noise, but some thought we were a real protest, stopped their cars mid-traffic, and would yell at our background actors playing religious/anti-queer protestors, telling them to leave the neighborhood. It was comforting to know they were pro-gay, but also jarring when it happened all of a sudden. Luckily, OPD facilitated these incidents, and we learned that we had to turn down our anti-gay signs in between takes to not solicit unwanted attention.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I’m super pleased that the audience received the layered intention of our costume/production design, cinematography, sound, and editing as it relates to theme and character, and all the work and passion we put into it. It’s very cool the audience got the film’s message and were inspired and had awesome, supportive words for our film.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I saw Superman (with Christopher Reeve) back in the 1980s. I wanted to know how they made a man fly.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I think it’s a tie between Halloween (1978), Blow Out, or A Room With A View. Grease is in there too. They are all comfort food in their own ways.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Perhaps more online networking events with the filmmakers but I know this is challenging right now with the pandemic. An idea might be providing a zoom call – if it’s online – where it’s just the filmmakers in a festival talking to each other, talking about their projects and shop, and creating community. Regarding my filmmaking career/projects, connecting me with Madonna to help make my first feature film would be fantastic!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It’s a fantastic site, easy to manage, and essential for independent filmmakers as a platform for their work to be seen. I’m grateful to FilmFreeway for providing us artists with a resource to easily apply for film festivals on one site. We ALL want our art to be seen and to inspire and entertain audiences. I marvel at the film festivals, FilmFreeway and other sites, who have helped to keep the art flowing and seen during these challenging, transformative times.

10. What is your favorite meal?

A patty melt with french fries.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m going to screen my four short films (LUNCH LADY, SHARKS&MINNOWS, ACROSS, and MEDIAN) together in a theatre as they work as a seamless quartet. I’m also working on directing my first feature film LUCKY STAR and writing a new feature and a TV series.

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By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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